Germans flock to see East German secret police files

10th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

More than two decades after the Berlin Wall fell, Germans are still queueing to see the files on them compiled by the Stasi, the hated East German secret police, the head of the archive said Thursday.

Since the Wall came down in 1989, there have been 1.8 million requests for access to Stasi documentation, Marianne Birthler told reporters.

In 2010, there were 78,500 individual requests, around one third of which were first requests, she said.

"In half of the cases, we find something, which can range from a simple card to enough documents to load down a table," said Birthler, who is retiring after 10 years in charge of the archive.

"Every request to see a personal document is a decisive step to ensure the past is not forgotten," she added.

Her successor, Roland Jahn, a 57-year-old former East German dissident, said: "We must continue this duty of remembrance to ensure there is no nostalgia for East Germany," which he described as a "dictatorship."

The archive service itself has come under fire for employing former Stasi agents, a decision both Birthler and Jahn said was cause for regret.

When the archive was first set up, it was deemed necessary "to employ people who understood how the Stasi archives worked," said Jahn.

According to press reports, around 50 of the approximately 1,800 people employed at the archive are former Stasi agents.

In February, the media reported that the archive's head of human resources, Lutz Penesch, had resigned after it become known he had been recruited by the Stasi at the age of 17.

Welt newspaper also said that the archive's information technology chief, Peter Schmidt, served as a Stasi lieutenant. He was originally recruited by the archive service to work as a guard, but made his way up to head of computer operations, the paper added.

© 2011 AFP

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